Fat chance in Stoke

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have a pretty breathtaking track-record when it comes to frittering away taxpayers’ money and this time they’ve outdone themselves in their collaboration with the local NHS. In a stroke of genius they’ve decided to equip every new council and health worker in the area with a pedometer as part of a full-proof plan to cure the obesity problem in the area.


So far 3000 workers are having their steps counted, a figure that will rise to 7000 as part of a £1m ‘health crackdown’ according to The Sentinel. The article says:


“Records from the pedometers are fed onto a website where staff can measure how their fitness isWest Mids TPA logo improving.
Almost 1,500 workers most at risk of falling ill and dying young are having their lifestyle tracked by experts over the telephone.
It comes as latest figures show around half of the 240,000 people living in Stoke-on-Trent never exercise and up to 30 per cent are obese”.


So the taxpayer is being called upon to prevent NHS workers dying young, and not only are we shelling out for this equipment, it seems we’re also paying for ‘experts’ and a flashy interactive website.  Is this really what public funds are for?


It’s not surprising that some people are unhappy with this astonishing scheme, though not necessarily in the way you might expect. NHS Stoke-on-Trent delegate  George Abela, aged 65, was put on a health programme by his GP, though he didn’t actually get a pedometer, he complains:


"Instead I was given free entry to Shapes Gym in Fenton three times a week.
"I was really benefiting from it but couldn't get there in winter because of the bad weather. Then when I went back I was told my programme had ended and I would have to pay.
"I found that very disappointing but I am still managing to exercise on my own."


Obese pedometer So many questions...


Will a pedometer – something that measures current activity rather than providing any stimulus for the wearer to do more, or more vigorous activity – really prevent obesity in NHS workers or anyone else for that matter? Why are these staff entitled to such privileges on the taxpaying public whilst the rest of us must organize our own exercise and take responsibility for our own well-being? Where is the evidence that such methods work, and for that matter, when will we receive the results of this project to prove that it has, indeed, had a significant impact on health?


This, no doubt, falls in to the ‘spending money to save money’ category, but whatever dubious evidence the authorities  produce in a years time to prove that this scheme is working the proof of the pudding will really come when we look at the sick day figures for staff and – on the assumption that this health crusade is intended to rub-off on to Stoke residents – the obesity and mortality figures for local people.


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